Friday, May 27, 2011

Bobcat Prevention - Quick Chicken Pergola

A couple of months ago, we lost one of our chickens. And the bobcat sightings have since still been occurring from time to time around our neighborhood. Sometimes it's just a lone adult, but also a half-grown young one is around too. Since the female had to get pregnant somehow, it's probably safe to say there are now at least three in the area.

Yesterday afternoon, I was out working in the yard when a neighbor driving by stopped to talk. The day before, they'd come home to complete carnage inside their chicken coop. They have cameras on the outside of their house, and when they ran the film back to around noon, they could see an adult bobcat bounding across the yard and jumping the 6-foot chicken pen fence easily. After swatting down a couple of the chickens in the yard, it then followed where the rest had fled into the coop, killing 20 of their 25 birds.

Yesterday evening, Aries was out in front of our house when he heard and saw a couple of magpies raising a ruckus coming down our street. They were diving and squawking at an adult bobcat as it walked down the middle of the road. When it came even with the front of our house, he tossed a couple of rocks at it. It headed up the hill into the sagebrush, magpies still squawking and diving overhead.

When Aries got home from work today, the magpies were squawking in the neighbors' tree. He walked down to check, then came back to get me and the camera. The young bobcat was sitting up there IN the magpies' nest, ignoring the squawking magpies hopping about overhead, calmly looking down at us. Momma was probably somewhere nearby.

Our neighbor called the Sheriff's Office, asking if there was anything they could do. Dispatch told her it was a holiday weekend; they had neither time nor personnel to deal with a bobcat up a tree. Neighbor called the state Division of Wildlife and they too would do nothing. Furthermore, neither could she. Despite the livestock predation, if she wanted to shoot or trap a bobcat, she'd first need to apply for a permit, 'else face poaching charges.

We left the cat up the tree and walked home. After hearing about how easily bobcats can jump 6-foot fences, that they're active even during mid-day, and that they'll kill for sport instead of just hunger, Aries decided maybe putting a top on our chicken pen might be a good idea. We still had about 3 hours of daylight, lots of wood in the scrap pile, and bits and pieces of wire fencing. It was kind of like erecting a makeshift pergola over the top of the pen. We had some really long 2x4's salvaged from when we re-built the deck a couple of years ago. Using a 1½" drill bit, Aries cut holes in the ends of some of those to fit on top of the t-posts on either side of the pen. More long pieces were then laid crossways over the top of those, with an upright center post for extra support.

The bits and pieces of wire were then patchworked over that. Lastly, we tied everything together on top and to the sides. Amazingly, we were finished by sunset. It's not pretty. Some of the boards we used were really weathered and some were warped and twisted. We'll probably have to re-work everything later on in the year to make sure it's strong enough to withstand the weight of next winter's snows. The guineas and our four half-feral chickens aren't going to like not being able to fly out, either. But I feel a bit better knowing our flock is perhaps a bit safer.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

That was probably the better bet, we have many predators in our area to worry about including bob cat so a top to the chicken pen was a must.